Not tonight, Silas thought. Saint-Sulpice hides her secrets elsewhere.
Turning his head to the right, he gazed into the south transept, toward the open area of floor beyondthe end of the pews, to the object his victims had described.
There it is.
Embedded in the gray granite floor, a thin polished strip of brass glistened in the stone... a goldenline slanting across the church's floor. The line bore graduated markings, like a ruler. It was agnomon, Silas had been told, a pagan astronomical device like a sundial. Tourists, scientists,historians, and pagans from around the world came to Saint-Sulpice to gaze upon this famous line.
The Rose Line.
Slowly, Silas let his eyes trace the path of the brass strip as it made its way across the floor fromhis right to left, slanting in front of him at an awkward angle, entirely at odds with the symmetry ofthe church. Slicing across the main altar itself, the line looked to Silas like a slash wound across abeautiful face. The strip cleaved the communion rail in two and then crossed the entire width of thechurch, finally reaching the corner of the north transept, where it arrived at the base of a mostunexpected structure.
A colossal Egyptian obelisk.
Here, the glistening Rose Line took a ninety-degree vertical turn and continued directly up the faceof the obelisk itself, ascending thirty-three feet to the very tip of the pyramidical apex, where itfinally ceased.
The Rose Line, Silas thought. The brotherhood hid the keystone at the Rose Line.
Earlier tonight, when Silas told the Teacher that the Priory keystone was hidden inside Saint-Sulpice, the Teacher had sounded doubtful. But when Silas added that the brothers had all givenhim a precise location, with relation to a brass line running through Saint-Sulpice, the Teacher hadgasped with revelation. "You speak of the Rose Line!"The Teacher quickly told Silas of Saint-Sulpice's famed architectural oddity—a strip of brass thatsegmented the sanctuary on a perfect north-south axis. It was an ancient sundial of sorts, a vestigeof the pagan temple that had once stood on this very spot. The sun's rays, shining through theoculus on the south wall, moved farther down the line every day, indicating the passage of time,from solstice to solstice.
The north-south stripe had been known as the Rose Line. For centuries, the symbol of the Rose hadbeen associated with maps and guiding souls in the proper direction. The Compass Rose—drawnon almost every map—indicated North, East, South, and West. Originally known as the WindRose, it denoted the directions of the thirty-two winds, blowing from the directions of eight majorwinds, eight half-winds, and sixteen quarter-winds. When diagrammed inside a circle, these thirty-two points of the compass perfectly resembled a traditional thirty-two petal rose bloom. To thisday, the fundamental navigational tool was still known as a Compass Rose, its northernmostdirection still marked by an arrowhead... or, more commonly, the symbol of the fleur-de-lis.
On a globe, a Rose Line—also called a meridian or longitude—was any imaginary line drawn fromthe North Pole to the South Pole. There were, of course, an infinite number of Rose Lines becauseevery point on the globe could have a longitude drawn through it connecting north and south poles.
The question for early navigators was which of these lines would be called the Rose Line—the zerolongitude—the line from which all other longitudes on earth would be measured.
Today that line was in Greenwich, England.
But it had not always been.
Long before the establishment of Greenwich as the prime meridian, the zero longitude of the entireworld had passed directly through Paris, and through the Church of Saint-Sulpice. The brassmarker in Saint-Sulpice was a memorial to the world's first prime meridian, and althoughGreenwich had stripped Paris of the honor in 1888, the original Rose Line was still visible today.
"And so the legend is true," the Teacher had told Silas. "The Priory keystone has been said to lie'beneath the Sign of the Rose.' "Now, still on his knees in a pew, Silas glanced around the church and listened to make sure no onewas there. For a moment, he thought he heard a rustling in the choir balcony. He turned and gazedup for several seconds. Nothing.
I am alone.
Standing now, he faced the altar and genuflected three times. Then he turned left and followed thebrass line due north toward the obelisk.
At that moment, at Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Rome, the jolt of tires hitting therunway startled Bishop Aringarosa from his slumber.
I drifted off, he thought, impressed he was relaxed enough to sleep.
"Benvenuto a Roma," the intercom announced.
Sitting up, Aringarosa straightened his black cassock and allowed himself a rare smile. This wasone trip he had been happy to make. I have been on the defensive for too long. Tonight, however,the rules had changed. Only five months ago, Aringarosa had feared for the future of the Faith.
Now, as if by the will of God, the solution had presented itself.
If all went as planned tonight in Paris, Aringarosa would soon be in possession of something thatwould make him the most powerful man in Christendom.